Danny Dorling – The 32 Steps

Penguin have released a series of books to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. A number of the books are related to the social geography of London. The books are quick reads and thought provoking while maintaining accessible.

Information about the twelve books can be found on the Penguin website here.

32 steps
This novel was written by Danny Dorling, Danny works at the University of Sheffield, and was behind the World Mapper project.

This book presents a wide range of information about how the social indicators change in London along the route of the Central line.

Some of the interesting factoids from the book are:

  • The central line was opened on 2nd April 1911; the same Sunday the 1911 Population Census was undertaken (the first census to take account of living conditions).
  • Starting on the West; for the first four stations every second spent moving is exactly a day off their lives in terms of how long people living beside the tracks can expect to live.
  • Average GCSE Point score in London is 337, but West Ruislip it is 356.
  • In London distance is measured in seconds and minutes rather than in miles and kilometres.
  • In Holland Park children receive the highest GCSE results along the line.

Dorling produces a range of stories to illustrate the statistics. I recommend this book to all geographers and anyone interested in London’s social history.


The book is also inter-dispersed by graphs showing some of the data. (click the graph for a larger version).


Much of the data used in the book comes from a relatively new website/project; http://www.londonmapper.org.uk/.

I purchased this book from Foyles; which cost £4.99 but was part of their 3 for 2 promotion; so I was able to purchase 3 of the titles in then London Underground Series for less than £10! On Foyles website it is available for £3.24 (11/04/2013).

Categories: London